Mrs Lewis Centenary Leaflet extract

Moss, W.E. (1948) Mrs Lewis Centenary Leaflet extract. [Image]

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This leaflet was produced in 1948 to commemorate Elizabeth Ann Lewis, who became a driving force of the teetotal Mission, known as the ‘Blue Ribbon Army,’ which she
introduced to Blackburn in 1882. This drew on the non-conformist Gospel Temperance Movement.

In 1868 he started as a coach builder in Blackburn. Both were keen on music. Mr. Lewis was an organist and cornet player, his wife a splendid pianist, so their services were oft sought for at the Rechabites Hall and by concert parties at Sunday Schools.

A Blue Ribbon Mission commenced in Blackburn on the first Sunday in December, 1882. The Missioner appealed to the ladies on the platform to assist in taking pledges. Mrs. Lewis was one who responded. The first man she spoke to said : “Talk to my mate.” She did so. He would not sign but promised to come to the evening meeting. He did and she secured his pledge, also his address. She went to his home and thus started her work of visitation for which, like her mother, she was in every way fitted and something she never tired of. Had John Oats not kept his promise and taken the pledge that night I might never have been writing this story. The Mission came to an end by she continued to visit the people until the result led her to think if only a man was engaged to devote all his time to such work what good would be the result. Her husband shared her views enthusiastically and many friends promised to help. Mr. Eli Heyworth, a cotton manufacturer, made suggestions and one of his employees – Mr. Kilshaw – a splendid Band of Hope worker, was engaged on September 1st, 1883. She had no intention of forming a Mission, but as many of the reformed men and women were anxious for meetings the Wesleyan Schoolroom was taken for this purpose on a Wednesday evening.

In January, 1884, The Spinners’ Institute was taken for an entertainment on Saturday evenings, admission 1d. Two meetings on a Sunday and one on Wednesday evening. This was continued for 43 years with only two exceptions – the night when Queen Victoria lay dead and the night in March, 1924, when our own Teetotal Queen had joined the Immortals. Meetings had been held many months before she attempted to speak at them. When she did her power of persuasion was manifest. Visitation had provided her with thousands of examples of the curse of strong drink and the changes wrought in the homes by the advent of Teetotalism. As the years passed she became known as “The Drunkards Friend,” and her voice was raised in most of the towns in England and Wales. She did not speak in Scotland, but for a week in Belfast spoke at many meetings. The editor of a local paper spent a day in visiting with her and what he heard and saw led him to write “Sunlight in the Slums.” The “Manchester Guardian’s” sub-editor, Mr. E.A. Axon, wrote several columns of his experiences when he visited Blackburn on the same errand. The Spinners’ Institute became too small to hold all who wished to attend the meetings. So Mr. Lewis erected a large room over his Carriage Works for his wife’s use. It was named after Dr. F. R. Lees, the Schoolmaster of the Temperance Movement, and he opened it in June, 1891, and dedicated it to the spread of Teetotalism and Truth. Since then the late Primate, Dr. Temple, many Bishops, those two saviours of humanity, the Rev. Charles Garrett and Father Nugent, have spoken there. Ministers, M.P.s of all creeds and parties; Americans, like Pussyfoot; Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders have made the walls ring with their voices. Representatives of the three great religious forces of India and Persia, together with hundreds of rough diamonds, have related their experiences from its platform, so the Hall has rightly been called a “Beacon Light” for the fallen. Lady Battersea once said there, “Within this Hall you will find a heard to feel and a hand to save.” The young are trained to recite and sign, to aim high, and become good citizens.

When Cardinal Manning first came to Blackburn he expressed a desire to see Mrs. Lewis at the Town Hall and at a public meeting there gave her his blessing for the work she had done amongst their people.

Mr Kilshaw – her Missionary – retired at the end of five years in failing health. She invited me to take his place. I was living in Chorley, 10 miles way, but had addressed meetings for her. As the Snnday evening meetings did not begin until 8 o’clock I had to walk home. There were no trains, so she knew I was an enthusiastic Teetotaller. I began on September 1st 1888. When the King and Queen came to Blackburn in 1913 the Town Council realised there were many reasons why Mrs. Lewis should be presented to their Majesties, and this was done. Not long before Joseph Livesey, the “Father of Teetotalism,” died in 1884, he sent for Mrs. Lewis, gave her his blessing, and thanked God there was someone left carrying on the work; and, as in the early days, eager to make Teetotallers irrespective of party, creed or colour. Women victims of the drink curse were not easy to reclaim. She had faith in them, and with passionate love, sometimes a kiss, inspired them to conquer themselves. Visiting was her forte. She loved it. One evening we were visiting in Audley district. Suddenly she stopped in the street and burst into tears, then said : “Mr. Moss, I’m sorry, but I don’t think I shall ever get out visiting again.” It was a sad journey to her home,-a premonition that after 40 years of it her course was ending. Years before Sir Thomas Barlow had told her there was no known cure for trembling of the limbs from which she suffered. The tendency was ever to increase. March 10th, 1923, was the last time she spoke in the open air. It was at Walton-le-Dale when she unveiled a Tablet on Joseph’s Livesey’s birthplace. In November, 1923, she presided for Charlie Ouinland, one of her old Band of Hope boys, little dreaming she would never

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